PCS season and allergies are here! I’ve been seeing lots of people with increased allergies lately. These can add extra baggage when you are getting ready to move to your next duty station. They also can be a sign that you need to check in with your body. Here’s a crash course on how to handle seasonal allergies with ease.
Here are some common signs of seasonal allergies:
· Itchy or runny nose
· Itchy or watery eyes
· Dry cough
These are common signs of seasonal allergies, but it is important to check with your healthcare provider to be sure they aren’t because of something contagious or more serious. If allergies are to blame, then you can be confident in taking action to manage your symptoms and address the root cause.
One thing that seems to confuse people about seasonal allergies is that there is no ONE season for them! Spring can kick up allergies due to tree pollen or outdoor mold spores. Summer is high season for pollens from grasses or weeds. Fall is the season for ragweed allergies and can also be a time when mold can become a trigger.
HIDDEN TRIGGERS THAT CAN WORSEN ALLERGIES
Seasonal allergies happen when the immune system reacts to a substance that should otherwise be harmless. It’s like an immune response gone rogue. What happens next is the release of histamine—a tiny chemical messenger that leads to a cascade of inflammation and annoyances like itching and sneezing. (Note that we are discussing mild seasonal allergies here and not the type of allergic response that can lead to anaphylaxis).
Lots of people take antihistamines or medications that block the release of histamine to control seasonal allergies, but when looking at allergies from a functional medicine standpoint that only scratches the surface. It doesn’t address the root cause. I like to go deeper and look at what other factors might be at play to trigger histamine and inflammation in the body—because any of those things could potentially make a person’s experience of allergies even worse.
Here are some little-known but common histamine triggers:
· Poor gut health (especially leaky gut)
· Food intolerances
· Mold exposure
· Foods high in histamine (like wine, aged cheese, and processed meats)
Also, we need to consider other factors that worsen inflammation and put the immune system on high alert:
· Processed foods
· Diet high in sugar
· Lack of exercise
The bottom line? Anybody who wants to break the cycle of seasonal allergies could benefit from looking deeper to uncover patterns that could be making things worse. The good news is there are things you can do at home to support you and your family.
THREE NUTRIENTS TO CALM SEASONAL ALLERGIES
Histamine is at the center of seasonal allergies. It’s released from mast cells and causes most of the irritating symptoms. Some foods and habits can trigger histamine and hence worsen allergies. Now are you ready for the good news? Food and nutrition can also be a powerful way to counteract all this madness and bring the immune response back into a healthy state
Let’s look at three key nutrients and their food sources:
1. Quercetin is a flavonoid in plant foods that stabilizes mast cells (meaning a lesser chance of histamine release). Great food sources of quercetin include apples, onions, and berries.
2. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports immune function and works together synergistically with quercetin. Great sources of vitamin C include strawberries, bell peppers, citrus fruits, and most other fruits and veg!
3. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that support an appropriate inflammatory
response. Most people don’t consume enough of these healthy fats! Great food sources of omega-3s are fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
Last, but not least, keeping your home clean is important for decreasing allergy symptoms. This is especially important when PCSing and sorting through things that may have collected dust in your storage.
EIGHT TIPS TO ALLERGY-PROOF YOUR HOME
Whether it’s seasonal sneezing or a year-round runny nose, it’s possible that your home could be making allergies worse! Here are eight tips to reduce allergens in your home and keep your living space healthy and clean:
1. Wash bedding: Wash your bedding every week in hot water to keep dead skin cells and dust mites at bay. As an added precaution, you can get dust-mite-proof covers for pillows and mattresses.
2. Vacuum regularly: If rugs and carpets can’t be replaced with other flooring, vacuum weekly with a HEPA filter to reduce dust.
3. Close windows: Closing the windows and relying on air conditioning during pollen season or when there is bad air quality can keep your inside air fresh.
4. Filter air: Regularly replace the filters in your heating and air conditioning units and consider portable HEPA filter units around the house.
5. Wash pets: Keep your pets clean or out of areas like the bedroom to minimize exposure to allergens in pet dander.
6. Check ventilation: Use a vented exhaust fan above the stove to clear cooking fumes. Use a fan in the bathroom when showering to minimize moisture accumulation.
7. Check humidity: Mold can grow anywhere that humidity exceeds 50%. Keeping homes cool and dry minimizes the risk of mold growth and exposure.
8. Avoid smoke: Don’t allow people to smoke in your home, avoid wood-burning fireplaces, and close the windows when there is wildfire smoke! All types of smoke can be respiratory irritants.
When it comes to improving your health, it’s easy to forget about the importance of your surroundings. Even if nobody in your family struggles with allergies, taking these steps can improve your odds of staying allergy-free!
Written By: Dr. Kasey Holland @ in-dependent.org